WASHINGTON (AP) — Addressing a worried nation and an anxious world, President Joe Biden pledged in his first State of the Union address Tuesday night to check Russian aggression in Ukraine, to tame soaring US inflation and deal with the waning but still dangerous coronavirus.
Watch Biden’s remarks in the player above.
Biden said that in the face of the threat posed by Russia, he and all members of Congress, regardless of their political differences, are united “with an unwavering determination that freedom will always triumph over tyranny.” He asked lawmakers thronging the House chamber to stand up and wave to Ukrainians as he began his speech. They stood up and clapped.
READ MORE: 7 Key Takeaways From Biden’s 2022 State of the Union Address
It was a remarkable show of unity after a long year of bitter acrimony between Biden’s Democratic coalition and the Republican opposition.
Biden’s 62-minute speech, which was torn between war attention abroad and worries at home, reflected the same balancing act he now faces in his presidency. He must muster allied resolve against Russian aggression while dealing with inflation, COVID-19 fatigue and falling approval ratings as the midterm elections approach. .
Biden pointed to the bravery of Ukrainian defenders and a newly reinvigorated Western alliance that worked to rearm Ukraine’s military and cripple Russia’s economy through sanctions. He also acknowledged the costs to the US economy, but ominously warned that without consequences, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression would not be limited to Ukraine.
“Throughout our history, we’ve learned this lesson – when dictators don’t pay the price for their aggression, they cause more chaos,” Biden said. “They keep moving. And the costs and threats to America and the world continue to mount.
As Biden spoke, Russian forces were stepping up their attacks in Ukraine, after bombing the central square of the country’s second-largest city and Kiev’s main TV tower, killing at least five people. The Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial was also damaged.
Biden announced that the United States was following Canada and the European Union in banning Russian planes from its airspace in retaliation for the invasion of Ukraine. He also said the Justice Department was launching a task force to crack down on Russian oligarchs, whom he called “corrupt leaders who have cheated billions of dollars from this violent regime.”
“We come for your ill-begotten gains,” he said, promising that American and European allies were after their yachts, luxury apartments and private jets.
Biden pivoted in his speech from unrest abroad to those at home. Even before the Russian invasion sent energy costs skyrocketing, prices for American families had risen, and the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hurt families and the nation’s economy.
Read more: Joe Biden’s Full 2022 State of the Union Address
Biden outlined plans to fight inflation by reinvesting in U.S. manufacturing capacity, speeding up supply chains and reducing the burden of childcare and elder care for workers.
“Too many families are struggling to keep up with the bills,” Biden said. “Inflation robs them of the gains they might otherwise feel. I understand. This is why my absolute priority is to control the prices.
In a sign of national progress on the pandemic, Biden entered the House chamber without a mask, as coronavirus cases decline and new federal guidelines attempt to bring the public back to pre-pandemic activities. But there was also evidence of ongoing tension: The Capitol was newly fenced off due to security concerns after last year’s insurgency.
In the face of domestic disquiet and danger abroad, the White House had framed Tuesday night’s speech as an opportunity to highlight the improving outlook for the coronavirus, rebrand Biden’s domestic policy priorities and show a path to lower costs for families struggling with runaway inflation. But events took a turn for global affairs with the Russian invasion of Ukraine last week and Putin’s nuclear slashing.
In a rare jarring moment, Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado shouted that Biden was to blame for the 13 service members who were killed during the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last August.
“You put them in. Thirteen of them,” Boebert shouted as Biden mentioned his late son Beau, a veteran who died of brain cancer and served near toxic military homes, widely used in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Biden is pursuing legislation to help veterans suffering from exposure and other injuries.
An AP-NORC poll from February found that more people disapproved than approved of how Biden handled his job, 55% to 44%. That’s down from a favorable rating of 60% last July.
Biden used his remarks to highlight progress made a year ago – with the majority of the US population now vaccinated and millions more people back to work – but also acknowledged that the job was not yet done, an acknowledgment of American discontent.
“I came to report on the state of the union,” Biden said. “And my report is this: The state of the union is strong — because you, the American people, are strong. We are stronger today than a year ago. And we will be stronger in a year than we are today.
Biden used his speech to get the country “back to more normal routines” after the coronavirus reshaped American life.
“It’s time for Americans to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again,” he said. He said people will be able to order another round of free tests from the government and that his administration is launching a “test to treat” initiative to provide free antiviral pills at pharmacies to those who test positive for the virus.
While his speech to Congress last year saw the rollout of a massive social spending package, Biden this year has largely repackaged past proposals in search of workable measures he hopes can win support. bipartisanship in a bitterly divided Congress ahead of the election.
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The president also pointed to investments in everything from high-speed internet access to building bridges from November’s $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill as an example of government achieving a consensus and bringing change for the nation.
As part of his speech to voters, he also placed new emphasis on how proposals such as the extension of the child tax credit and the reduction of childcare costs could provide relief to families. as prices rise. It was said that his proposals on climate change would reduce costs for low- and middle-income families and create new jobs.
Biden has called for lower health care costs, outlining his plan to allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, as well as an extension of more generous health insurance subsidies now temporarily available through the Act’s marketplaces. affordable care where 14.5 million people are covered.
Biden also called for action on voting rights, which failed to garner GOP support. And as gun violence escalates, he returned to calls to ban assault weapons, a direct request he hadn’t made in months. He called for “funding the police with the resources and training they need to protect our communities.”
He led Congress in a bipartisan tribute to retired Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and highlighted the biography of Federal Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, his nominee being the first black woman to serve on the high court.
Associated Press writers Darlene Superville, Fatima Hussein, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Lisa Mascaro in Washington and Jason Dearen in New York contributed to this report.